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Gujarat Heavy Chemicals builds a datacenter in a remote location and saves crores

Debarati Roy | June 10, 2013
How—and why—the CIO of Gujarat Heavy Chemicals built a datacenter in a cyclone-prone, secluded sleepy little town—and saved crores.

That made it imperative for GHCL to ensure that business users had access to information no matter what.

And that could only be achieved if Sinha built infrastructure in a way that users at the plant location could access applications over a LAN. This would guarantee that unless it was doomsday, his business would not come to a standstill. But to achieve that Sinha would have to do something phenomenal. Like build a datacenter in a sleepy little town, prone to cyclones. For most CIOs, either one of those would have reason enough to put as much distance as they could between Veraval and their datacenters.

Going the Full Distance
Although GHCL's plant in Veraval is well connected to important towns in Gujarat, its distance from the commercial centers of the state made it a risky location to set up a datacenter. The closest city to Veraval, Ahmedabad, is almost 400 kilometers away, and the nearest metropolitan city, Mumbai, is 900 kilometers away. In case of an emergency, it could take anything between 12-24 hours for help to reach Veraval.

"Getting hardware to Veraval was not a challenge, but we had to factor in the possibility of a server breaking down. Then it would take us a minimum of 12 hours to source it from the nearest city," says Sinha.

The biggest task for Sinha was to choose hardware that was resilient and could withstand the vagaries of a sea-side location including high humidity levels and salty air.

Not only did the servers need to be weather-tested but Veraval's distance from other cities also made it necessary to ensure that the servers had the feature of remote troubleshooting.

"In case of an emergency, someone should be able to perform the first level of trouble shooting without having to be physically present at the datacenter," Sinha says.

He says that the exercise of choosing servers was extremely challenging because while he could find servers that could withstand extreme climate, servers that allowed remote assistance weren't readily available when he was conceptualizing the project.

Sinha says he spent about six months evaluating various products. He spoke with his peers from similar verticals operating in, more or less, similar conditions to understand their challenges. "From technical forums to long conversations with solution providers, I checked the performance of the servers and other hardware components," says Sinha.

He tried six ways from Sunday to create a highly resilient datacenter. But he also knew that he needed to chalk out a response plan with the smallest possible downtime in case something within the datacenter went askew.

Which is why, Sinha created a mirror--a backup--for every server in the datacenter. "This n+1 provisioning ensured that even if a server broke down, its mirror would be up and running in the least possible time," he says. And if that went down, Sinha could plug in to his DR site in Ahmedabad.


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